MIR the trainees have the possibility to take part in the helm
watches. This means that they can take over the steering of the vessel
for 1/2 hour at day plus 1/2 hour at night. Those who volunteer for
this will steer all alone but under supervision of the watch officer
and if necessary a person who is experienced in steering. This can be
an A.B. or a cadet or sometimes even another trainee who has been on
MIR before and has proven to be a good helmsman.
want to take over a helm watch your eye vision needs to be okay.
It is no problem if you are wearing glasses, but either with or without
glasses you should be able to read the compass from a distance of 1
metre as most of the time you will be steering compass courses.
volunteer for helming you will be given a time during which you
will take the helm. This will be the same time every day and every
night (for example from 06.30 to 07.00 and 18.30 to 19.00 hours daily).
The watch officer will be informed that you come and will await you. If
you cannot come to your helm watch - maybe because you are seasick - it
is necessary to inform the watch officer that you will not appear so
that he finds a cadet who will substitute you.
your own experience and to receive a true effect of learning how to
steer a ship it is advisable to do the helming during your entire
voyage. Every day you will find a different situation, different wind,
different sea state so that no watch is like the other. However, if you
come to the helm for 5 or 6 days after each other you will get a real
good impression of the job of the helmsman.
is time for your helm watch:
to the bridge 5 minutes before your helm watch begins
dressed for the weather conditions - don't forget a hat or gloves or
you arrive on the bridge go to the open door of the
wheel house and inform the watch officer that you are there and want to
take the helm
it is time to take over the watch officer will
accompany you to the helm and ask the cadet who is there now to hand
over the helm to you
cadet will now tell you the course that is to be
steered at the moment and eventually give you some more important
information such as the weather helm to be maintained or how the ship
reacts to the wheel
must repeat what he said and then you can take over the helm
you will hand over the helm to the next cadet the procedure will be the
- during the
helming repeat every command that you get loud and clear
let's see what you have to do at the helm:
of Compass Courses
most of the time - and especially when you are a beginner - you
will steer compass courses. This means that the watch officer will tell
you a compass course. He will do this in English. This will sound like:
"The course is two-four-seven!" This information means that you are
meant to keep the ship on the course 247° according to the
compass in front of you.
steering compass is a repeater of the ship's gyro compass. It has
2 scales. The outer circle shows the degrees in steps of 1 degrees with
every 10 degrees marked. The inner circle gives you 10th of a degree to
allow you precise steering. Other than on yachts on the MIR we steer
precisely to 1°. If you receive a course of 247° this
247° and not 245° or 250°. You should try to
precise as possible. This is no big problem as the MIR has got a
hydraulic steering gear.
a given Rudder Angle
change of course is necessary you will now receive commands to
steer a certain rudder angle. For this you have a rudder angle
indicator in front of you. The commands used in this can be seen below
in the Standard Wheel Orders.
a given Angle to the Wind
we are steering a certain angle to the wind. In front of you
is a wind indicator. It shows you the angle and speed of the apparent
wind. You will now receive a command to steer for example
the wind. In this case the course is not important for you any more.
There is no need to look at the compass for you, but only to the wind
indicator. You follow the wind with your steering to maintain the
perfect angle to the wind for the trim of sails.
after Wind and Sails
proof to be a really talented helmsman you might receive the
order to steer after wind and sails. In this case your job is to steer
so that the sails all stand perfectly. It is the way to steer the
vessel in hard-by-the-wind courses when you are beating against the
wind. The steering sail is the highest set sail on the main mast (e.g.
the main royal sail). If it's windward leech is slightly playing you
have the minimum angle towards the wind. You now can steer to windward
if the wind increases and must bear off if it decreases. You must
follow every change of direction and can try to find the perfect point.
However, you must steer very carefully and should not turn the wheel
more than 1/4 turn to either side as too much rudder angle and too much
changing will reduce the speed of the vessel. It is difficult to
describe this in words, but maybe we will sail together one day and I
will show you what I mean...
during a Sail Manoeuvre
that you will receive the same commands as during a change of
course. Only here it is absolutely important to fulfil them as quickly
as possible and as precise as possible. If you act too slowly you might
stop the vessel in the tack what might mean that the tack will fail.
The crew (and the master) will not be delighted if they have to brace
back all yards and do the tack again because of you...
with the Pilot
narrow waters, during approaches or when working with the pilot
precision helming is necessary. That means we steer strictly to the
given course with no more than 0,5° deviation to either side.
normally do this with the tiller steering inside the wheel house. The
more precisely you keep the course the better. To do this there are 5
secrets to know:
- Secret No 1: Do not allow your course to walk
out at all.
If the needle starts moving 0,1° - react immediately. The
you wait the more action you have to take and the longer it takes to
return to your given course. And the more action you take the bigger
the chance that the course walks out to the other side afterwards.
- Secret No 2: Do not allow anything to disturb
If you take your eyes from the compass your course will start walking.
If you have taken the helm during a precision steering situation you
must focus all your attention on the course and nothing and nobody
else. If you feel tired or unconcentrated have somebody release you.
- Secret No 3: Always know where the next buoy
Never let a change of course come as a surprise to you. During an
approach buoys as a rule mark the changes of course. So by the moment
when you pass one the pilot will very probably give you a new course
command. If you know where the fairway goes you will be prepared for a
smaller or bigger change of course.
- Secret No 4: Make your homeworks before you
take the helm.
If you know that you will steer during a certain passage or approach it
pays to look into the sea chart and the tide tables before. If you know
the general directions and conditions during your helm watch it will
help you to steer better.
- Secret No 5: Know what can disturb your
Big vessels overtaking you, tight fairways with shallow waters on both
sides, stony grounds, strong currents, slow speed, changes of tide do
have strong effects on the steering abilities of the vessel. If you
know what they are doing you can take the right action in the right
moment and keep on the course as good as possible under that situation.
land is in sight, on rivers or fairways it is possible to steer
after landmarks such as prominent buildings, buoys, cliff edges,
lighthouses, leading lights, etc. If working with the pilot it can
happen that he orders you not a compass course but to keep course on
such a landmark. You then repeat the command as he gave it to you and
do not look on the compass, but try to keep the given landmark closely
starboard of the fore mast. It takes some experience, but it can be
easier to steer this way as one sees a beginning swing of the ship
earlier than on the compass.
after a Star
is not only a romantic phrase but a working method to keep a ship
on course while out on the ocean where the compass sometimes swings
around wildly. In a starry night it happens that one sees a prominent
star near the mast or another well visible part of the rigging. If this
matches the course ordered you can for a while take your eyes from the
compass and watch out that the star remains in the same position
relative to the rigging. This works extremely well with Polaris
(Northern Star) which remains very close to the true north direction
all night. But be careful, some stars move rapidly during the night. So
it is necessary to cross-check the maintained course with the compass
in regular intervals.
Standard Wheel Orders
page was last updated 10/07